From baby to boy: how to use books as childhood milestones

Published on: 28 September 2016 Author: Sophie Offord

Author Lisa Heathfield is mum to three sons - and says books have been a wonderful way to remember, relish and record their childhood.

Erika Meza illustration

When I was pregnant with our eldest child, sitting in a class with other soon-to-be mums, we were asked what we were most looking forward to.

The image that immediately popped into my mind was lying on the grass, reading to my child. I couldn't think of anything better than sharing a book with the little being we were bringing into this world.

Swimming with dinosaurs

When our son was born, my sister bought him No Matter What by Debi Gliori. Even though he couldn't understand a word I said, I'd hold him close and read every word until I knew it off by heart.

When he was old enough to turn a page, he loved the cardboard books with secret doors to open and things hidden behind.

As a toddler, he swam with dinosaurs, had grandfather bear swing him in wash-baskets, discovered magic train-tracks in attic rooms, and - with the help of talking animals - stopped a hiccuping castle in its tracks.

I counted the days until I could read him The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. I couldn't wait for him to meet Moonface, eat pop biscuits and slide down the slippery slip. And he loved it as much as I had always done. Then he went on every adventure he could with the Famous Five and his imagination flew with the Wishing Chair to unseen lands.

Getting lost in other worlds

The first book he read on his own was Harry Potter. Once he started, he didn't stop. It was amazing watching him curled up, his little eyes lost in another world. But we've never stopped reading to him.

Every night, my husband or I read to him and his younger brothers, and I've discovered so many books I would never have known. It's a sacred part of the day, now - that quiet time when everything else stops and we disappear together into worlds unlike our own.

We've stumbled side-by-side into the trenches of World War One, we've travelled into space, experienced bereavement, and walked with characters who survive whatever life throws at them.

Helping when life gets tough

Now all three of our boys are independent readers and they're never without a book. Modern life might want to cram them full with other things, but they still find something on the written page.

Books have given them more than they'll ever know - they've fired their imaginations, made them interested and interesting. And as they get older, whenever life gets tough, they can duck out just for a little while into a different world: a place of comfort, excitement and safety...

You can't ask for much more than that.